“I swear on my daughter’s life that I touched the ball,” Harry Kane pleaded after Tottenham overcame Stoke 2-1 at the bet365 Stadium, either by virtue of Christian Eriksen‘s free-kick swinging into Jack Butland’s net untouched, or via the faintest graze off the England striker’s shoulder.
“If they turn it around, they turn it around. If they take my word, they take my word.” And it seems Kane is insistent that his word will prevail, as news has emerged of Spurs appealing the Premier League’s decision to officially attribute the goal to Eriksen.
In some quarters, this has drawn ridicule and derision for Kane, whose detractors appear to view his pursuit of a goal in a game already finished and won as distasteful and self-serving.
But Kane’s desire to add to his Premier League goals tally for the season – which he will tell you is 25, while official figures, at present, say 24 – is something to be admired and encouraged. After all, the striker’s own professional interests are intrinsically linked to those of Tottenham and England.
The reason Kane is so intent upon claiming the goal against stoke as his own is because there is an individual honour at stake: the Premier League Golden Boot, awarded to the English top-flight’s highest scorer each season.
Kane has won the award for the last two years and is looking to become the first player to do so three times in a row since Thierry Henry (2004-2006). However, his status as the division’s foremost marksman is under severe threat: Liverpool‘s Mohamed Salah is currently in pole position on 28 goals.
With just six league games remaining for Spurs, five for Liverpool, the difference between having a four- or three-goal disadvantage to overcome is significant; Kane must feel his grasp on the gong slipping.
But should he care? It’s a team sport, of course, and securing a top-four finish, and with it a place in the Champions League next season as Tottenham move into their new stadium, should be, and is, Kane’s priority.
However, Kane’s unrelenting thirst for goals – even ones that have already been scored – should hearten Spurs (and England) fans. The 24-year-old is displaying the kind of drive to achieve for which Cristiano Ronaldo is roundly lauded, the kind which ultimately marks out the very best, and that has been conspicuous by its absence within English players for a generation.
Kane makes no secret of the fact he has ambitions of earning a place on the Ballon d’Or podium, aiming to rub shoulders with the best world football has to offer and become widely acknowledged as the best striker in the game – if he isn’t already.
And if he is to do that, he’ll do it in the only way he knows how: by scoring goals by the bucketful.
It’s evident in how, largely unperceived, his game has evolved this season. Where before he was a clinical finisher – ready to add the final touch to when called upon but always a cog in a greater machine – as Spurs began to shake off the shackles of perennial underachievement, he is now the centrepiece of the attack, receiving a constant flow of service and operating a shoot-on-sight policy.
The expected goals (xG) metric, which utilises historical shot data to apply a probability value to every shot taken, gives a strong insight into how Kane’s approach has changed.
Last season, the Spurs star accumulated a total xG of 12.9 in the Premier League, which he vastly exceeded by scoring 29 goals. Generally speaking, this means Kane was adding value to the chances he was getting through his ultra-precise finishing.
This term, he has already accumulated a far higher xG total (23.05), with 24 goals scored (25 if the appeal is successful). He is no longer greatly outperforming his xG numbers, instead focussing on generating a greater volume of scoring opportunities, rather than making the most of fewer. It’s very much the same approach Ronaldo takes at Real Madrid.
Boiled down to simpler terms, he is shooting more often – he has shot for goal 164 times this season to 110 last term – with Tottenham more co-operative in enabling his scoring efforts than ever.
“I still believe I can. There are still games to go,” Kane said of his chances of finishing the season as the Premier League’s top scorer once again.
“I’ve got to focus on my game. I can’t control what he [Salah] does.
“Obviously as a striker, it would be great to win the Golden Boot again and I will keep working hard from now until the end of the season.”
Goals matter to Kane. And, fortunately for Spurs and England, goals win games.